I was born in the UK, my mother is English and can trace her ancestry back to 1066 when the Normans invaded Britain. My Dad came to the UK in the 1960’s, a Muslim Pakistani, so I am of both British and Pakistani heritage.
The question is how do I identify myself, as English or Pakistani. Well first I would describe myself as British a broad term used to describe all in th UK in a non discriminative way. Without a doubt I am as much English as most, I maybe on my father’s side Pakistani, but I am as much English as a person with a Irish, Scottish or Welsh surname. So in this case I do identify myself as English. The real question is how society identifies us people of what they call mixed race, a term that is not too nice.
My mother and fathers marriage did not last long and they was soon divorced. My father was denied custody on the grounds he may of left the country with us, and custody was given to my mother whom had mental health problems and soon myself and my siblings was placed into care. We was quickly simulated into normal British culture, myself and my siblings was the only children in the home that was made to attend sunday school, we was served pork during meal times even thow we had muslim names no attention or thought was given to that factor. I only had white English foster parents whom one refered to me saying I was not British but Indian, they would not even allow a Asian person through their front door and fed me Bombay pasties because they thought I must like the taste of curry powder. I grew up in an area with but only a few persons of other ethnic origin and knew nothing of my Pakistani heritage. When say nothing I mean nothing, I knew no words in Urdu and knew nothing of Muslims or Islam, I couldn’t even find India on a map. I experienced much prejudice and racism growing up both from adults and children and more than often it was violent motivated because of my name and the tone of my skin. I put up with retold jokes by Bernard Manning aimed towards me by parents at the school gates, received racist comments from teachers whom would encourage a comment made in the class room. Growing up during this period was not as simple for myself as it was for other young people, going out the door you took the chance of being taunted and called a Paki, chased by teens who decided to do a bit of Paki bashing, spat at or even punched in the back of the head by a stranger as you walk through the market. My first memory moving to a new area was me and my older sister being chased and caught by a group of teens around the age of fourteen shouting get the Paki’s and my sister was made to watch while they beat me up because they didn’t hit girls, I had only had just turned eight years old.
Into my teens it didn’t get any better other than the intolerance had toughened me up and some had become cautious of starting a fight with. As any normal male teen I became interested in the opposite sex, but most girls wouldnt of taken me home to meet the parents due to their hangups on race and colour. Getting a job when leaving school was hard most employers were interested untill I told them my name or were the name originated. I was often asked was you born here, and after I said yes they would reply oh that’s ok then. Ticking boxes on ethnic origin, asked were I am from really hasn’t made me feel to British and excepted by English society.
During my late teens I found a job working for a British Pakistani company were I was embraced by the Pakistani friends I made there whom gave me an interest in both Muslim and Pakistani heritage, history and culture. I know prejudice goes both ways and I have found it among Pakistani’s because I am of mixed heritage, but generally I have found all Asian people are more tolerant and excepting of differences.
I know this sounds a bit of a rant, but before I go on I just wanted explain what it is like experiencing and knowing real racism and intolerance first hand, when you identify yourself as British but society sees something different. If you havent experienced prejudice in some form or the other you can’t truly know how it feels and the thin line between racist organisations and nazi storm troopers
Intolerance is at large again and now being aimed at British Asian Muslim minority and community’s, since the sad and distressing events that took place on 9/11, Islam has been demonized and fundamentalism has risen, British Asians have removed them self from association with Pakistani Muslims and division has grown between them. intolerant political party’s and organisations like the BNP and EDL have taken advantage of this to stir racial tension acting on the insecurity and fears of the working classes. This is not a new thing in Britain Enoch Powell done the same thing in the 1960’s to escalate his own political career, some my say he was demonized, but if you read one of his speeches you will see he probably done this to himself.
The EDL stated that no Pakistani Muslims had fought in any world war. This is not true, The British commonwealths army was once made up with a huge three percent made up of Punjabi Indian Muslims. You will find the names of Indian Muslims among the names of the war dead in France from both world war one and world war two, they died in a foreign land far from home to ensure the freedoms and rights of the British people. The British Indian army halted the Japanese from advancing into India under British rule. The acts of terrorism as we see today is a product of political issues in areas like the middle east and not because of Islam. Religion has always been used as a tool politically to seed a cause to rally people to war. Jihad is a term that is misunderstood and incorrectly quoted, during the middle ages both sides used the term holy war. A fundamental if you like of Islam is something that is fundamental to the religion and fundamental to Islam is the ten commandments, one of which is thalt shalt not kill. The value of the gift of life is something that all Muslims hold dear. Would we call the IRA Catholic extremists, or say that you can’t be Jewish and British, no because most are kind good people who follow the teachings in the holy bible as do Muslims. In this case you can be both British and Muslim, I feel religion and nationality are two entire different entity’s and in no way conflict. Islam teaches us that we should show inner and outer purity,in our actions as well as in our mind, we should be good kind and just towards all, show no malice, hate and not act out of anger towards others. Show compassion, charity, tolerance and love. It is a sin to take any life including your own and in the eyes of god all are equal no matter of ethnicity, race or social status. Moderate Muslims are the minority but because they are not standing on street corners shouting hateful propaganda they become the silent minority. extremist whom are the minority shout loudly on the streets becoming the herd majority and people believe they are they views of all. Young people in areas like Bradford, Luton have been conversed into having extreme views by an ideology that does not reflect Islam probably due to their own insecurities with not finding acceptance in our society. Prejudice and discrimination only gives fuel to the rise to people looking for some form to vent their own anger and prejudices. So please to all let use all look towards what we have in common and stop finding differences to divide us. To the EDL I as a British Muslim offer my compassion love charity and forgiveness because you are my countrymen and woman brothers and sisters and we should not be divided by differences but should find common ground for union to heal the scars of conflict that threaten to destroy the social fabric of our democratic free nation.
Rudyard Kipling wrote…….
Yet there is no East and there is no West, border nor breed nor birth, when two strong men stand face to face though they come from the ends of the earth.”
I feel this is a good place to finish, thanks for reading.